Road cars

Tradition not dead yet

Reports of the demise of the internal combustion engine have been greatly exaggerated | BY ANDREW FRANKEL​

Most reading this will have an area of expertise, a subject upon which – through reasons of work or personal interest – they will know more than most. My area happens to be cars, and when I watch or read about this subject in the mainstream media I am often, perhaps even usually, dismayed
by the inaccuracy of the alleged information imparted. But this reached a whole new level early last month when headlines like ‘Volvo Death Knell For Petrol Cars’ or, more soberly but hardly less accurately ‘Volvo Signals End Of Road for Diesel And Petrol Cars’ were splashed all over the papers.

What Volvo actually said was that by 2019 all its cars would feature some form of electrified drive, signalling for Volvo the end of cars powered solely by internal combustion engines. To conclude that this meant the end of the internal combustion engine is a leap so vast, so entirely unsupported by the facts, it seems to me to be wilfully inaccurate. And it’s serious: these utterly misleading stories will scare people into not buying cars (UK diesel sales are already plummeting because of political grandstanding on this misunderstood subject) and that means our car industry, which has spent the last 40 years dragging itself off its knees, is being needlessly threatened once again.

So, to be clear, the petrol engine is not under threat. It will be used not for years, but decades into the future. Certainly it will be joined by electric motors to form hybrid powertrains, but that’s hardly news: Toyota was selling such cars last century. And with the sole exception of Tesla, every single major car manufacturer in the world (including Volvo) will continue to use them indefinitely. In the very long term their role may diminish even to the point where cars only use them as generators to produce electricity when batteries are exhausted, just as cars like the BMW i3 do today, but ‘death’? Until batteries can be charged as quickly as tanks are filled, I simply don’t believe it. And we’ve already awaited that breakthrough for more than 100 years.

Newey’s latest trick

Aston Martin has released imagery of what it describes as a ‘95 per cent finished’ model of its new Valkyrie hypercar. The pictures show a machine still bearing the same silhouette seen at its original unveiling a year ago, but with many details added and changed.

The biggest visual area of development has been to the car’s aerodynamic form and, with Red Bull’s Adrian Newey leading the design work for the car, we should not be too surprised by that. Most notable are substantial slots that have been cut into the bodywork, between the cockpit and the front wings, to help feed air to the rear diffuser.

This diffuser, of unprecedented size for a car designed at least in part for street use, is key to the Valkyrie’s performance, not least because of the desire to keep the upper surfacing of the car relatively free from aerodynamic addenda. Aston Martin has given no indication of the downforce the car is likely to generate but speculation elsewhere has centred on about 1.8 tonnes or, put another way, three times more than that available in the McLaren P1 hypercar, currently believed to be the road car with the greatest downforce seen to date.

Inside, two occupants sit close together in fixed seating positions not only for maximum space efficiency but also to immobilise the significant mass they represent, which could easily be 15 per cent of the one-tonne car’s overall weight. A sliding pedal box like that used in Ferrari’s LaFerrari will ensure that what Aston Martin claims to be a wide range of different sizes and shapes can be accommodated.

For reasons of space efficiency, all significant controls are located on the steering wheel, which can be detached to aid entry and also act as a formidable security device. Information will be provided via a single OLED screen, with scrollable page displays. The Valkyrie has no mirrors in order to aid aerodynamic efficiency, so rear vision is provided by two cameras with displays at the front corners of the cockpit, close to where exterior mirrors would normally be mounted.

The Valkyrie is also full of detail design innovations rarely if ever seen on road cars. These include headlights shorn of their shrouds and cladding to reveal their intricate inner working, saving up to 40 per cent of the weight of a standard Aston lamp. The centre high-mounted stop light is just 5.5mm wide and 9.5mm high, making it the smallest in the world, while the Aston Martin badge is chemically etched into aluminium just 70 microns thick, making it not only thinner than a human hair, but also 99.4 per cent lighter than a standard badge.

Aston Martin has also confirmed it will put its first all-electric car into production. Just 155 examples of the four-door RapidE will be built and it will be developed in conjunction with Williams Advanced Engineering. The new car, based on the next generation Rapide saloon, will likely have an output of about 600bhp as well as massive torque. No details as to price, range or recharging times have yet been released, although it is known that first deliveries should commence in 2019.

Jaguar’s new crossover

Jaguar has unveiled the all-new E-Pace, it first compact SUV and the car it expects to be the best-seller in its range. It sits below the extant F-Pace SUV, which already outsells all other Jaguar models combined.

The E-Pace is the first Jaguar to come powered only by its Ingenium range of 2-litre turbocharged engines – though it will be available in both diesel and petrol forms with as little as 148bhp for the entry level diesel to 296bhp for a range-topping petrol version.

Although visually similar to the F-Pace, the E-Pace is entirely different underneath as it sits not on Jaguar’s own state-of-the-art aluminium-intensive platform, but that of the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport – that in turn is a highly evolved iteration of Ford’s EUCD platform developed for cars like the Mondeo and S-Max.

The E-Pace will be available with front-wheel drive on more affordable models and with manual or automatic gears. There are three diesel engine outputs: 148bhp, 177bhp and 237bhp, with petrol only being available for
the most powerful 246bhp and
296bhp versions.

Jaguar claims the E-Pace will be exceptionally spacious for a car in this class, where it will compete primarily against the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. It will also come with optional TFT instruments and head-up display, the latest touchscreen navigation unit and the ability for up to eight devices to stream content using the on board 4G wifi hot spot. 

The E-Pace is available to order now, with prices starting at £28,500.

Power and glory

Porsche unveiled its new GT2 RS at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the most powerful 911 and, indeed, most powerful series-production car in Porsche history. With 690bhp from its twin-turbo 3.8-litre flat six, it is fully 80bhp more powerful than the formidable 2010 GT2 RS. It accelerates from 0-62mph in 2.8sec, quicker than the 911 Turbo S despite lacking that car’s four-wheel-drive hardware. Its top speed is 211mph.

The car is based on the 911 GT3 RS and uses much of the same material, such as its carbon-fibre bonnet and carbon-reinforced plastic front wings. However, those wishing to reduce further the weight of the 1470kg car can opt for a ‘Weissach Pack’ that provides a carbon-fibre roof and anti-roll bars plus magnesium wheels.

The GT2 RS is on sale now for £207,506 and numbers are not officially limited. Weissach Pack cars will cost an additional £21,042.

In the meantime, speculation as to its likely Nürburgring lap time is likely to reach fever pitch. The new GT3 has already covered the 12.9-mile circuit in 7min 12.7sec and, with a further 200bhp, breaking the record for a rear-drive car – currently held by the Mercedes-AMG GT R at 7min 10.9sec – is surely a formality. Of far greater interest is whether it can go under the magic seven-minute mark and, if so, by how much. Will it, for instance, beat the 6min 57sec lap posted by the 918 Spyder to make it the fastest Porsche
in history?

Even if it does, there remains some distance to go before it can challenge the 6min 52sec of the Lamborghini Huracán Performante, a time whose legitimacy was widely questioned but which has been staunchly defended by Lamborghini. However, the GT2 RS’s chief architect Andreas Preuninger has been quoted elsewhere as saying: “If both cars are coming straight from the dealership,
I’m sure we can beat them.”